Like most people* in the UK who passed their test before 1st January 1997, my driving licence has what is known as ‘Grandfather Rights’ (or more flatteringly ‘Acquired Rights’) which allow me to tow vehicles up to 8.5t.
But just because you can tow something legally, it doesn’t mean that you should.
A. What You Can Legally Tow?
The rules differ according to when you passed your driving test.
1. If you passed your test BEFORE 1 January 1997
- You can drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8,250kg maximum authorised mass (MAM).
- Click this link to check your licence.
2. If you passed your test on or AFTER 1 January 1997
- You can drive a car or van up to 3,500kg MAM towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM.
- You can only tow a trailer OVER 750kg if the combined MAM of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg.
- There are further size restrictions for trailers that can be towed by motorists who passed their test on or after 19 January 2013
- Click this link to an online tool to show what you can and cannot tow.
B. Should You Tow?
Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.
Our caravan and van have a total train length of about 40-feet. I left the towing to Mark at first. Although we were completely new to caravanning, Mark holds an LGV1 licence, so he can legally drive an articulated lorry. I have never towed anything before, never mind taken charge of something that is the length of an HGV.
C. Why Should You Take A Towing Course?
I felt that it was important for me to learn to tow the caravan for a number of reasons;
1. Share the Driving
If we do long journeys, it is safer to share the driving.
2. In Case of Injury
If something did happen – like Mark was suddenly taken ill or even just twisted his ankle – I would be able to take over at the wheel. (This DID happen – had I been unable to tow, we would have been stuck in Budapest for weeks when Mark broke his ribs.)
3. Reduction In Insurance
There is also a good chance that completing a towing course will result in a reduction in your caravan insurance. Insurers look kindly on well-trained drivers for one reason only – you are less of a risk; to yourself and other road users and are less likely to damage those expensive assets – your beloved caravan and tow car.
It’s your life; your van; you decide if you think it’s worth it.
D. Where Can I Learn To Tow?
You can book yourself on a short try-out session – there are free towing and manoeuvring experiences at many of the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Shows. While this is a useful taster, it is not enough in itself.
The Caravan and Motorhome Club run a two-day Practical Caravanning Course several times a year, so I signed myself up. The course covered manoeuvring as well as many other subjects that have proved invaluable. It gave us a boost of knowledge just when we needed it – at the start of our caravanning career. The C&CC also run towing courses.
You can read about how “The Woman at the Wheel” got on in her Towing Course here!
E. Is My Car Suitable To Tow?
It is also important to ‘match’ your caravan and tow car to ensure that you have a safe and legal combination in terms of weights and pulling power. The Caravan & Motorhome Club and the Camping & Caravan Club both offer a free matching service to members while Towsafe offers the service for a small fee.
F. Safety Checks Before You Tow
Click here for a comprehensive list of the checks recommended by the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Association) that you should carry out every time you tow a trailer, caravan or horsebox with a car, to make sure you’re towing safely and legally.
You can be fined up to £2,500, be banned from driving, and get 3 penalty points for using a vehicle in a dangerous condition.
Keeping your vehicles well maintained and serviced will go a long way towards ensuring that they are safe. You can also get a free safety check for a trailer up to 3,500kg through the National Trailer and Towing Association’s (NTTA) free safety checks scheme.
- To Tow or Not to Tow? – Is it Safe to Tow in High Winds?
- RAC Complete Guide to Towing a Caravan & The Camping and Caravanning Club basic guide on how to tow a caravan.
- DVSA Safety Checks for Towing a Caravan with a Car
- Caravan and Motorhome Club Advice for Beginners – Driving Licences for Towing
- Caravan and Motorhome Club – Caravan Towing Courses
- For a small charge, you can also order ‘Trailer towing guidance and the law’ from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
*I have heard rumours that DVLA sometimes removes categories from driving licences which are sent back to make changes, such as updating an address. It is best to check your licence to make sure that it does display all the correct categories required to tow your vehicle. Click here to follow a link to the discussion.